The so-called “modern era” of UFOs began in the summer of 1947, specifically on June 24. That was the date upon which a pilot named Kenneth Arnold encountered a squadron of strange-looking aircraft flying near Mount Rainier, Washington State – as the man himself noted in his 1952 book with Ray Palmer, The Coming of the Saucers. As an experienced pilot, Arnold was deeply puzzled that he was unable to identify the things ahead of him. As he got closer, Arnold realized exactly why he was unable to figure out what the objects were: they were not regular airplanes, but futuristic-looking half-moon shaped vehicles that resembled absolutely nothing in the United States’ arsenal at that time. And that was surely the case for the Russians, too. It was not long before word of Arnold’s encounter reached the eyes and ears of the media – in fact, less than a day. The terms “flying saucer” and “flying disk” all-but-immediately became the talk of 1947. Today, the term “UFO” is far more popular than the now largely antiquated “flying saucer.”
Although the latter part of the 1940s proved to be a period in which sightings of apparent unearthly craft abounded, it wasn’t until the early 1950s that the Men in Black stepped out of the shadows – in force –and set about snaring us, manipulating us, and ultimately digesting us. And, no, the “digesting” term is not an exaggeration. Over the years there have been numerous investigators of the Men in Black phenomenon, such as UFO researchers Gray Barker, Jim Keith, and Harold Fulton – all of whom are now long gone. None of them, however, came anywhere close to Albert K. Bender – the man without whom our knowledge of the MIB and their agenda would be sorely lacking, and who created the International Flying Saucer Bureau (IFSB). Born in 1922, Bender was someone who served his country during the Second World War in the United States Army Air Corps. Post-World War Two, Bender lived in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in a somewhat creepy-looking old house that stood at what was, at the time, the junction of Broad Street and North Frontage Road. Today, the house is no more, the secrets it once held now being just memories and stories in books.
Adding to the creepy atmosphere, Bender lived in the attic. Of course! Where else? As a fan of the worlds of sci-fi-, fictional horror (H.P. Lovecraft was one of Bender’s favorites), and the real world of the paranormal, Bender radically altered his attic-room into what he termed his “Chamber of Horrors.” Paintings of grotesque monsters filled the walls. Imagery of skulls and black cats abounded. A gothic-style painting of an old cemetery dominated the room. And, plastic spiders hung from the ceiling. Then, there was Bender’s altar – it was at the foot of that unsettling place of worship that Bender would engage in infernal rites designed to provoke a supernatural response from…well…who knew what? Bender didn’t care what “it” was, he just wanted that reply. He got it, alright. He opened the kind of door that it’s never, ever wise to open. And, something came through. As Albert Bender noted in his 1962 book, Flying Saucers and the Three Men (zero prizes for guessing who the “three men” were…), in practically no time after he called forth something supernatural from the other side, he was paid a visit. Yes, the Men in Black had picked up on Bender’s request for communication – and they responded in kind. Bender was replying to a mountain of mail from the readers of the latest issue of his Space Review magazine when he received his first visit of what, finally, amounted to several.
It was late one night in 1953 when the MIB turned up. There was no slow, loud, knock at the door, though. Nor were any U.S. Government ID cards flashed. Bender’s Men in Black walked through the walls and door of the attic. They were blazing-eyed, skinny, pale monsters. Their mode of dress was black suits, black fedoras, skinny black-ties, black shoes, and crisp white shirts. Imagine a 1950s-era member of the Mafia mixed in with a liberal amount of a resurrected zombie that has seen better days, and the image swirling around your mind won’t be too far off what it was that Bender encountered. As the Men in Black got closer, so Bender started to feel sick. Nausea overwhelmed him and an odor of sulfur filled the attic. Worse still, Bender felt himself becoming weak. His energy levels plummeted like those of a diabetic who has missed breakfast, lunch and dinner. He was freezing cold and the shakes had suddenly set in. Even in his hazy, sickly state, Bender couldn’t fail to see something which chilled him to the bone: the weaker he got, the brighter and more fiery the eyes of the terrible trio got. Weaker, brighter. Weaker, brighter. You get the picture. Bender certainly did. In a macabre and terrifying way…Albert Bender was, bit by bit, being eaten; devoured, even.
With Bender sprawled out on the bed, and as helpless as a newborn puppy, the Men in Black telepathically warned him to leave the UFO subject well alone. If he didn’t only something terrible would befall the man himself. The three turned on their heels (black, of course) and dematerialized as mysteriously as they had first appeared. Bender was no fool: he knew that if he didn’t quit chasing flying saucers that the MIB were surely likely to turn his life into a living hell. But, the allure of the space-beings and their silvery, saucer-shaped craft was way too strong. So, it was all but inevitable that Bender would get another visit. And another. He did. Things got worse and worse: like those ghoulish drivers who can’t keep their eyes off of a fatal car accident on the highway, the MIB couldn’t keep away from Bender: they would always arrive at night and hover over the bed, as Bender fell into that same state of sudden illness and weakness that hit him on the first occasion.
By the second visit, Bender’s health was suffering significantly: he had gotten progressively weaker. He started to develop stomach problems. From his descriptions, it may have been ulcers and a dose of ulcerative-colitis. His energy levels had fallen off the scale and he lost weight. He was constantly out of breath. And migraines plagued him day and night. As for those MIB? Well, their eyes just proceeded to get brighter and brighter with every visit. It didn’t take Bender long to realize that he was effectively being bled dry. It was, in a strange way, very similar to the actions of those black-cloaked vampires who drained bevies of buxom babes of their blood in the likes of Universal Studios’ 1931 version of Bram Stoker’s classic novel, Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi. In a very strange state of twisted irony, the movie was one of Bender’s all-time favorites. Come the third visit, Bender was not in a good condition at all: he was now seeing the MIB in the darkened streets of town. They would stand on the street-corner, leering at him – entities that no-one but Bender could see. The stomach problems were getting worse. He was losing more weight. Bender knew he had to do something. And, he did. Bender, albeit somewhat reluctantly, walked away from UFOs and closed down Space Review. Bender shut the doors on the International Flying Saucer Bureau, too, and quit the subject. He made a very brief reappearance in 1962, to write the aforementioned Flying Saucers and the Three Men, after which he left the subject behind and never returned. From the 1960s, and until his death in 2016, Bender was, when it came to UFOs, almost permanently AWOL.